As PM Narendra Modi was about to start his speech at a convocation of the Bhim Rao Ambedkar University in Lucknow on Friday, an angry student (or perhaps more) raised slogans of ‘Narendra Modi Murdabad’ and ‘Modi, go back’.
As TV cameras focussed on Modi, he looked a bit shaken at the surprise interruption from the audience. And then the cameras turned to the seats from where the slogans were raised.
A few people quickly gathered around the students shouting slogans and in the melee that ensued some people were seen escorting out some students out of the hall.
Modi gathered himself and began the speech, during which he for the first time touched upon the suicide of dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad on Sunday.
“Jab ye khabar milti hai ki mere desh ke ek naujawan bete, Rohith, ko atmahatya karne ke liye majboor hona padha toh uske parivar par kya beeti hogi. Maa Bharti ne apna ek laal khoya (when the news comes that a young son of the nation was compelled to commit suicide imagine what his family had to endure. Bharat has lost a son),” Modi said, briefly mentioning the suicide case that has raged throughout the week.
Co-incidentally, Modi was at a university that is named after the best known dalit of India, Bhim Rao Ambedkar.
It’s also a co-incidence that Modi, on a two-city tour of Uttar Pradesh on Friday, was set to attend a function related to dalits – at a time when the community is in news following the suicide of Vemula.
Modi was chief guest at the convocation of the university.
Before coming to Lucknow, Modi went to Varanasi, his Parliamentary constituency, where he attended a few functions, including the flagging of a superfast express train between Varanasi and New Delhi, called Mahamana Express.
Modi only mentioned the words ‘dalit’ and ‘poor’ in his speech while distributing tri-cycles for differently-abled children in Varanasi. But he didn’t refer to Vemula’s suicide. Maybe he was saving everything on this issue for the convocation in Lucknow.
Dalits are in news because of the suicide by Vemula, 26. Since he committed suicide on Sunday, the issue of discrimination against backward castes has been a hot topic of discussion – and politics.
Modi’s schedule included pay homage at the Ambedkar Mahasabha office, besides being the chief guest at the convocation.
Modi’s visit to Lucknow is his first in 20 months since becoming prime minister – and the first by any prime minister in 11 years.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also of BJP, was the last prime minister to visit Lucknow, in 2005. Vajpayee also attended Lucknow University and later won Lok Sabha election from the ‘City of Nawabs’.
Earlier, Modi reached Varanasi amid unprecedented security, particularly as the dalit sentiment is presently against the central government for its ministers’ role in the events that led to Vemula committing suicide.
Vemula committed suicide after the union he belonged to — the Ambedkar Students’ Association – had a fight with the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.